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Can Necromancers be good (or at least neutral) ?

2

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  • Balrog99Balrog99 Member Posts: 6,089
    edited April 2019
    Qyburn in Game of Thrones doesn't strike me as being 'evil' per se. I definitely think he counts as a necromancer. He seeks knowledge for the advancement of humankind (or so he says). Personally, I think he's portrayed as a Kevorkian type of doctor who is mostly just curious about death and disease. Still, not really evil, maybe more like true neutral or chaotic neutral.

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 10,806
    Necromancy tends to be the school I go to on the rare occasions I play mage. I exclusively play good as well. I also look at it a little differently philosophically, as I tend to play Druids with a focus on death and decay as well. Death is needed to make room for new life. My necromancers won't kill unless out of self defense, but when necessary, they look at it as necessary as part of the cycle of life.

    Balrog99
  • elminsterelminster Member, Developer Posts: 16,013
    Depends on if they have a priest of Kelemvor in their party. If they do then they can be a good or neutral necromancer for only so long as they can survive a good pummeling :)

    ThacoBellBalrog99BelgarathMTH
  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 1,206
    ThacoBell wrote: »
    Necromancy tends to be the school I go to on the rare occasions I play mage. I exclusively play good as well. I also look at it a little differently philosophically, as I tend to play Druids with a focus on death and decay as well. Death is needed to make room for new life. My necromancers won't kill unless out of self defense, but when necessary, they look at it as necessary as part of the cycle of life.

    Despite Necromancy being the study of death, it's not killing that usually gets them put in the evil category. If it was then Evocation would be the Ultimate Evil.

    Rather, it's unkilling, the reversal or thwarting of the death process, that puts them in the evil territory.

    Though of course if a priest does it, then that's good and holy.

    ThacoBellBelgarathMTH
  • Humanoid_TaifunHumanoid_Taifun Member Posts: 1,041
    edited April 2019
    The idea that dragging the souls down from the heavens is evil has always confused me a little.
    So you spend eternity minding your manners while drinking tea and toasting politely to divinities as they pass through the gardens on the way to more exciting pastimes while aunt Maggy tells you her life story for the 4000th time, and somehow you are supposed to be resistant to a summon to the mortal plane where you get to beat up random strangers without any danger of feeling pain yourself.
    Frankly, I would probably be fine being tasked with guarding an ancient tomb that no one is going to visit for several millennia. Eternity is forever. Taking a break for a few thousand years can only be healthy for the mind.

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 10,806
    If reversing death is evil, then there are no good priests.

  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,578
    edited April 2019
    @Chronicler and @ThacoBell . The priestly Raise Dead spell is a holy gift of the gods, and only given to priests who please that god. It raises the deceased individual intact, with memories and free will uncorrupted, to continue their work in life, and is done with the full agreement of the person's immortal soul. Gygax's original inspiration for the spell was the story of Jesus and Lazereth from the Bible. If you look at the cleric spell list from early D&D editions, many of the cleric spells were clearly inspired from biblical stories of Moses (Part Water, Sticks to Snakes, Cure Disease), Elijah (Flame Strike, Whirlwind), and Jesus (Create Food and Water, Walk on Water, Raise Dead, Cure Disease, Cure Poison, Cure Blindness, Heal, Resurrect).

    Necromancy raises a shell of a living spirit into a dead and decaying body or bones, usually with no free will, to be commanded at the whims of the necromancer who did it, and without the consent of the former person's soul. Higher undead who retain their identity and free will, such as vampires, must maintain their undead bodies by killing others, drinking their blood, and in some cases, directly draining the life force of other souls with negative energy.

    It's creepy, Lovecraftian stuff, and I think an overwhelming majority of good-aligned people have an instinctive and intuitive revulsion to it. Necromancy in the classical sense positively reeks of evil.

    Add that to centuries worth of real life literature and story telling where a necromancer is the "big bad" of the story. Tolkein comes immediately to mind, as well as Shelley (Frankenstein), King (Pet Sematary), and others. Necromancy as an evil, forbidden thing is a firmly held archetype in the collective unconscious of human culture.

    ElysianEchoes
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 10,806
    Raise dead and all healign spells are classed as necromancy. So if Necromancy can only be evil, then so is all healing.

  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 4,716
    Really surprises me that no one classifies Enchantment/Charm as the ultimate evil school of magic.

    ThacoBellZaxaresArvia
  • Humanoid_TaifunHumanoid_Taifun Member Posts: 1,041
    But @Raduziel , it is such a charming school of magic.

    ChroniclerThacoBell
  • ZaxaresZaxares Member Posts: 1,018
    Yeah, if you think about it, the Enchantment school is capable of some SERIOUSLY depraved acts of evil. In fact, in the Ravenloft campaign setting (probably my all-time favourite setting!), there's a Darklord named Dominic d'Honair who's built around this exact premise. (If you're wondering just how evil he could be, put it this way: he gaslighted and manipulated a servant into killing herself when he was just 8 years old. He only got worse from there.)

    ThacoBell
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.

    ThacoBell
  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 1,206
    chimaera wrote: »

    For me generalizations such as "good-aligned people have an instinctive and intuitive revulsion to it" (unless you're talking here about the game setting) are very problematic, because there is an echo of the old persecutions to them.

    I have to imagine they're talking about the game setting. People don't have alignments in real life.

  • The user and all related content has been deleted.

  • RigelRigel Member Posts: 136
    Hello everybody - I have finally started a new playthrough with a Necromancer, and for me it represents a lot of "first times" :
    - First time I play a neutral PC
    - First time I play a Necromancer and I try to RP him (see below)
    - First time I play with a majority of evil NPCs
    - My first time with Shar-Teel ....
    - My first time with Baeloth ...
    - I hope soon my first time that I ronance Viconia


    I read the Complete Necromancer book - very good book, old flavor of the 80's. I chose to play a Necromancer Neutral, because it seems to me that it would fit Gorion's ward, i.e. a wizard, with an interest for the "Dark side", but tempered by Gorion's education and above all Imoen's friendship.
    Would he not be with Imoen, he would surely be Neutral Evil, but her influence helps to balance him. Moreover, he is neutral because as a Necromancer, he does not fear Death and everything which is associated to it. To the contrary, this attracts him.
    I think he is a mix between a Philosopher and an Anatomist - not a purely theoretical nerd, because of what happens to him, he needs to go down in the world, but sometimes, he forgets where he is and can do evil things because of his obsession with knowledge.
    NPCs: of course he is interested in freaks and creepy characters. So after meeting Montaron and Xzar and learning a bit from the latter, he has now the following party : Imeon, Viconia, Kagain, Shar-Teel and Baeloth. He knows that most of his companions are dangerous weirdos but he does not really care. Sometimes he needs to calm down Shar-Teels homicidal fury and Kagain thirst for gold. But I have to say that those NPS are amazing and it is very interesting to play them (for me, first time with an almost evil party). Reputation wise, after Cloakwood mines (where we saved the miners) we are at 12, which is OK. I almost got to 18 but thanks to Shar-Teel's hacking of the Flaming Fist soldier who attacked her because she was helping getting the poor Samuel to the FAI, we came back to 9. She did not want to help him at first, and then Kagain told her that they may get money for this and Elmor (my character) explained her that it would be the proof that women and particularly her are superior to poor males.
    Spells: I am not a purist like @Genryu . I love his amazing Zuzhul Plaguebringer's playthroughs. I try to use almost just Necromancy spells, but I use as well other spells (for example Stoneskin and sometimes Magic missiles and Web). But, for example, for Lvl 1, I almost just use Larloch's drain, even if it seems a bit bugged - for example I have at the moment 38 PVs (with a familiar, a bloody rabbit ....) and if I use LMD I get to 42 but not over. Is it OK ?

    I plan to play him until TOB and to romance Viconia. He will always be torn between his interest and fascination for the Dark side and his good orientated nature. But let's say that when Imoen is not there, he will perhaps succumb and get close to really creepy characters : for example I plan in SoD to help Coldhearth against the dwarves (a lich ! so interesting and fascinating) and in SoA to side with Bodhi ( I need to check what will be my party then because I may lose NPCs). Btw, if I take NPCs late during SoA what will be their levels ?And in TOB, what will be the NPCs available to me and at which levels ?
    And when Imoen comes back, he will surely rebalance the party towards more good aligned NPCs. But I would like to have Hexxat, she will surely be a subject of fascination for him ...



    JuliusBorisov
  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 20,619
  • RigelRigel Member Posts: 136
    Gearing: almost nothing. Ring of wizardry that's all. He is not interested in material things. Just want to discover and learn the dark arts.
    A quarterstaff.
    And the bloody rabbit ... I do not think that in SoA I will get another rabbit ... a bit ridiculous for a Necromancer (should have a zombie rabbit or a were-rabbit like in Wallace and Gromit ...)

  • RigelRigel Member Posts: 136
    @JuliusBorisov Thank you very much ! I will install it tonight.

    Until now I despised this spell but now I have begun loving it .... so if it works better, it will be perfect !

    JuliusBorisovStummvonBordwehr
  • RigelRigel Member Posts: 136
    @JuliusBorisov @Tresset It works perfectly thank you very much !
    Now my PC can be a TRUE Necromancer

    JuliusBorisov
  • ShangerooShangeroo Member Posts: 84
    Rigel wrote: »
    @JuliusBorisov @Tresset It works perfectly thank you very much !
    Now my PC can be a TRUE Necromancer

    Isn't the definition of a True necromancer in D&D terms someone with both arcane and divine magic? (It's been many years, so I'll have to re-visit my old D&D books) So in this game, the closest thing perhaps would be a necromancer dualed to a cleric?

    Also going back to the original topic of this thread, I do recall reading in one of the player handbooks that neutral necromancers are rare which while I can see the argument from the author's perspective, it never made sense to me. My very first character in BG was a CN necromancer. I chose CN alignment to allow ultimate freedom in doing whatever I wanted which seems to be in the spirit of a necromancy school.

  • monicomonico Member Posts: 559
    I'm not very familiar with D&D lore, but to me, a Necromancer is not just an evil mage raising zombies, but a scholar trying to understand the deepest laws of the world: death and life magic.

    In this sense, the alignment restriction makes no sense IMHO.

    ThacoBellChronicler
  • ZaxaresZaxares Member Posts: 1,018
    Shangeroo wrote: »
    Isn't the definition of a True necromancer in D&D terms someone with both arcane and divine magic? (It's been many years, so I'll have to re-visit my old D&D books) So in this game, the closest thing perhaps would be a necromancer dualed to a cleric?

    In D&D 3.X, there IS indeed a prestige class called the "True Necromancer", and yes, to qualify for the class you have to be both an arcane and a divine spellcaster specializing in the Necromancy school. IIRC, the True Necromancer basically is all about animating and controlling MASSIVE amounts of undead, gaining the ability to spontaneously cast spells like Create Undead at higher levels, as well as being able to cast some archetypical Necromancy spells like Wall of the Banshee and Energy Drain.

  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 463
    edited March 5
    Necromancers would generally be evil or thought as much, but that doesn't mean one couldn't be neutral or good. One could choose to not raise undead but employ the other elements of necromancy.

  • monicomonico Member Posts: 559
    Is Animate Dead innately evil though ? The problem here is that the spell in the BG series animate skeletons, which feels like desacrating tombs, against the will of the deceased.

    But a necromancer could be calling upon the spirits, ghosts, and even bodies of heroes of the past, or at least friendly (to him) dead persons, to guide him and help him face his enemies.

    That's not the way it is implemented in the game though, and it's true that the necromancy arcane spells in BG have an evil taint.

    Chronicler
  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 463
    I would say it is personally. (And I never have my good/neutral clerics use that spell for that reason.) It would be cool for that reason though, to make a summon spell called call hero that brought a shade of an ancient her to fight for you.

    monico
  • ShangerooShangeroo Member Posts: 84
    monico wrote: »
    Is Animate Dead innately evil though ? The problem here is that the spell in the BG series animate skeletons, which feels like desacrating tombs, against the will of the deceased.

    But a necromancer could be calling upon the spirits, ghosts, and even bodies of heroes of the past, or at least friendly (to him) dead persons, to guide him and help him face his enemies.

    That's not the way it is implemented in the game though, and it's true that the necromancy arcane spells in BG have an evil taint.

    I've always though of Animate Dead as just a tool, similar to a gun, knife, pair of scissors, screwdriver, a pen, etc. It's just a medium, depending on how it's used is what determines good or evil or even neutral. Calling upon spirits to help, yes I realize Aragon is not a necromancer, but he did use that spirit army to fight the orcs and goblins. So would that be considered evil? I think it's a just a tool, a means to an end.

    ThacoBellmonico
  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 1,206
    monico wrote: »
    Is Animate Dead innately evil though ? The problem here is that the spell in the BG series animate skeletons, which feels like desacrating tombs, against the will of the deceased.

    But a necromancer could be calling upon the spirits, ghosts, and even bodies of heroes of the past, or at least friendly (to him) dead persons, to guide him and help him face his enemies.

    That's not the way it is implemented in the game though, and it's true that the necromancy arcane spells in BG have an evil taint.

    The reasoning generally used is that undead are innately evil in this setting. Just some quirk of how that magic works. Every time you cast that spell it's gonna come out evil, albeit hopefully obedient and kept in check.

    So the reasoning goes that it's evil to create an evil life form, or evil unlife form as the case may be. You are literally bringing evil into the world that would not exist had you not tampered with gods domain or whatever. Evil here understood to be a measurable quality of the thing you've brought into the world, testable with spells like Detect Evil and Know Alignment.

    monicoBelgarathMTH
  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 1,206
    monico wrote: »
    I'm not very familiar with D&D lore, but to me, a Necromancer is not just an evil mage raising zombies, but a scholar trying to understand the deepest laws of the world: death and life magic.

    In this sense, the alignment restriction makes no sense IMHO.

    They changed it in later editions, but in 2nd edition necromancy magic seems to encompass any manipulation of the flesh or soul.

    So doctors, biologists, zoologists, physiologists, neurologists, maybe even psychologists. All these and more branches of study effectively would get bundled into the Necromancy profession in The Forgotten Realms.

    If you think of the kind of people who actually study the body, very little of it in real life is made up of nefarious people looking to pervert God's Plan. My personal interpretation of the realms would be that most necromancers are working towards some kind of good, and their work is just misunderstood by a superstitious populace.

    ThacoBell
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 606
    There seems to be a bit of an inconsistency here. When my lawful good cleric summons a small army of skeleton warriors, that's good, but if my neutral good mage does the same thing, it's "burn the witch!"?

    I get the distinction between arcane and divine magic, where ostensibly it would be the caster's god that does the work in the case of a divine caster, but the end result is the same. How does the divine caster, or their god, raising skeletons get a pass?

    ThacoBell
  • ArchaosArchaos Member Posts: 1,421
    edited March 6
    Yes, you can have Good Necromancers.
    Not all necromancy spells are Evil.

    What makes Necromancers Evil are Evil spells.
    Animate Dead brings a Negative Energy spirit created by Negative Energy to inhabit the dead corpse.
    Raise Dead and Resurrection aren't Evil spells that bring Evil spirits into the world.

    This is the reason the vast majority of undead are Evil and not True Neutral like Golems.
    They are inhabited by Evil energies that want to DESTROY life.
    Kill them, make them suffer, eat their flesh, drink their blood, consume their souls, drain their energy.
    Whatever each undead wants to do, depending on their type.

    When you Animate the Dead, you literally create Evil. That's why it's Evil to do so.
    There's nothing subjective about it. DnD morality is objective.
    You create Evil, therefore you make Evil acts, therefore you turn slowly Evil.

    That's why undead are damaged by positive energy that creates or heals life.
    And that's why if you're a Paladin and you are turned into a vampire, you instantly fall and turn Evil.
    Either you're corrupted by the negative energy, or your soul is replaced by an evil spirit.

    If you animate dead to save an orphanage, that's not a Good act. It's a Neutral act.
    You take the Evil points for creating undead and then the Good points for doing a Good act.

    "Casting this spell is not a good act, and only evil priests use it frequently." ADnD 2E - Animate Dead

    monicoBelgarathMTH
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